WAYNESBURG – The homicide trial for Jason and Lana Roe began Tuesday with a stern reminder from Greene County Assistant District Attorney Linda Chambers.
“This is a very, very serious trial. There was a man who was murdered,” Chambers said.
Jason and Lana Roe are accused of homicide in the Aug. 14, 2012, death of Cordele Edward Patterson, 38, in Wayne Township.
Chambers, along with public defender Harry Cancelmi, who is representing Jason Roe, presented opening statements after a jury of four women and eight men, plus four alternates, was seated. Attorney Michael Bigley, representing Lana Roe, deferred his opening statement until the defense presents its case.
According to President Judge William Nalitz, the jury is self-sequestered, meaning they are not being held in seclusion, and Chambers told the jurors the trial, which resumes today at 9 a.m., is expected to last two weeks with more than 40 witnesses scheduled.
“We might not be able to present them in a nice, neat chronological order. That’s why you have to wait (until testimony concludes),” Chambers said. “All of it is so you can get a full understanding of what happened that day in August when Cordele Patterson was murdered. … Focus on the crimes and what was done, not on other things. Try not to be distracted by information not relevant to the killing of Cordele Patterson.”
Cancelmi countered that the death of Patterson was the result of love, estrangement, friendship and betrayal. Cancelmi added several circumstances in Jason Roe’s life – problems in his parents’ marriage, cocaine use, trouble in his marriage, the loss of a job and what Cancelmi called a “betrayal” by Patterson.
According to Cancelmi, Jason Roe and Patterson were both robbed at gunpoint in mid-July 2012, about a month prior to Patterson’s death. Around this same time, Lana Roe filed a protection-from-abuse order against her husband but did not follow through and it expired. After a brief separation, Jason moved back in with Lana in early August 2012. That’s when he noticed his gun collection, a power lawn trimmer and refrigerated food were missing. He wanted to report the “burglary,” but Lana did not. It raised suspicion in Jason Roe, Cancelmi said.
Patterson became a suspect in the burglary and, “whether true or not, that’s what Jason believed at that time,” Cancelmi said.
According to Cancelmi, retrieving the guns was Jason Roe’s top priority and Patterson made him believe the guns could be retrieved.
On Aug. 13, the day before Patterson was shot, Lana Roe and Patterson traveled together to Waynesburg, Cancelmi told the court. Cancelmi then detailed the defendant’s version of the day of the shooting that included finding more stolen items at Patterson’s residence and a stop at a hardware store in Dry Tavern, where a gun was purchased as a replacement to a stolen gun used for Lana Roe’s personal protection. Patterson was already at the cabin in Spraggs, where the Roes went for shooting practice.
The Roes went from Dry Tavern to the cabin in Spraggs.
“That’s when these two storms collide,” Cancelmi said. “The night before, Lana is in Waynesburg with Cordele, his friend, his friend who deceived him, in the same location. Jason sees Cordele behind her. What’s going on? Is there some sort of relationship between Cordele and Lana?”
Cancelmi said Jason Roe, who has difficulty hearing, shoots from a distance.
“He’s not shooting to kill and doesn’t kill. He hits his wife,” Cancelmi said. “She doesn’t know what’s going on with Jason and runs to the Jeep. Cordele goes to the cabin.”
After supposedly hearing a gun shot, Jason Roe entered the cabin, believed he saw something and fired at Patterson, according to Cancelmi.
“The question is what is in the windmills of Jason’s mind when these two storms of love, friendship and deceit collide and there is action,” Cancelmi said. “In the commonwealth’s opening statement, (Chambers) said this is a murder. I don’t think that’s an appropriate word. This is a crime of passion and conflict, (about) what was seen and what was present in the storms in Jason’s mind.”